T h e S m i t h s o n i a n M a r i n e S t a t i o n a t F o r t P i e r c e N e w s S M S
Reflecting on the Past, Looking Toward the Future
SMS Researchers Make Laura Diederick, Education
Strides in Understanding Biodiversity Specialist
Above: SMS/Link Fellow Emily Dangremond (left) discusses her mangrove research with NMNH Director, Dr. Cristián Samper and Dr. Eva Pell, the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for Science. Throughout its history, the research efforts of scientists at the Smithsonian Marine Station (SMS) have supported the mission of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), its administrative home within the Smithsonian, and thus the Institution as a whole. SMS is also a member of the Smithsonian Marine Science Network (MSN), providing a vital link between temperate and tropical research stations. With the advent of a new pan-Institution strategic plan this past year, SMS was afforded the opportunity to highlight the value of its research programs to the broader Smithsonian community, and scientists and staff did not disappoint. e framework of the new strategic plan is made up of four areas of focus, what the Institution has termed “Grand Challenges.” As would be expected, each Grand Challenge is broad in scope and critical to addressing issues facing the world today. e strengths of SMS and its research programs leave the station poised to make significant contributions in “Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet.” One aspect outlined in this Challenge aims at quantifying the planet’s biodiversity and comparing such across geographical regions. SMS Director, Dr. Valerie Paul, and Dr. Chris Meyer, Curator of Mollusca at NMNH, are nearing the end of a year-long project in which their team deployed standardized collecting modules throughout the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) to assess the diversity of invertebrates. Units were retrieved after six and twelve months underwater and all the organisms living in and on them were counted and catalogued. Similar projects using the same
modules have been conducted around the globe, providing a baseline of comparison among the different sites.
Increasing knowledge about the effects climate change has on both individual species and ecosystem functions is another objective outlined under this Challenge. Carlos Gomez Soto and Jonathan Craft, both former Link Fellows at SMS while working on their Masters degrees, are working with Dr. Paul to conduct studies on how ocean acidification, the decrease of the pH of seawater as a result of increased CO2 absorption, affects the calcification of several species of soft corals and algae. Many marine plants and animals construct calcium carbonate “skeletons” for protection, absorbing dissolved minerals from the water column. Results show that more acidic seawater reduces the ability of the soft corals and the green algae to calcify. Studies are underway to also see how the natural chemical defenses of these organisms and their survival might be affected.
In October, the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for Science, Dr. Eva Pell, visited SMS, along with Dr. Cristián Samper, Director of NMNH, and Dr. Jonathan Coddington, Associate Director for Research and Collections at NMNH. Dr. Pell provided insight into the development of the strategic plan, stressed the value of pursuing the Grand Challenges, and reaffirmed the significant contributions SMS can and will have on meeting the Institution’s objectives.
While 2010 was a productive year at SMS, the research and education programs continue to set ever more ambitious goals. In addition to those studies outlined here, projects in ecosystem monitoring, larval development and life histories, ecological functions of chemical products, and a statewide education network have been and will remain important in the Smithsonian’s overall mission of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
To view the Smithsonian’s 5-year strategic plan, visit www.si.edu/about and click on the “Strategic Plan” link. SMS
In this issue:
New Education Initiative 2 Friends of SMS, CCRE Update 2 Flotsam & Jetsam 3 Grants, Publications 3 Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Update 4